By morning’s light, around 7 a.m., on July 8, 1947, the roar of the mob approached quickly, with its shouts and screams heard from a great distance by one of the Trappists in the cemetery by the chapel.
The monks rushed to the tabernacle, to rescue and consume the remaining Hosts, before the second wave of looters, armed with military backup, swarmed through the abbey, demanding and taking more.
The library was destroyed. Valuable leather covers were ripped from the binding of the books by the illiterate peasants who threw up the loose-leaf pages that went flying, destroying a lifetime of work by Father Simon Hsu, the abbey’s talented bookbinder.
Some of the villagers dashed into the refectory, where members of the Community were eating, and snatched the napkins and utensils from the monks’ hands. The storerooms were broken into, and the contents – beans, corn, millet, sorghum, lentils, nuts, honey, salt, and cheese made from their goats’ milk – were confiscated, not for the peasants, but for the Communist soldiers. From the tool house, the shoe shop, the blacksmith shop – everything ransacked and looted. In the tailor shop, three of the five sewing machines, destroyed. The other two, carted away for the Communists. In the church, the mob tied up the sacristan, stole his keys and proceeded to carry off the chalices, vestments and other sacred objects. One of the peasants was seen with a priest’s stole tied around his waist as a belt.
Once the abbey had been gutted of all material possessions, the Reds turned on the monks and arrested all 70-plus, of which only five were foreigners. The rest were native Chinese.
Locked up in the Chapter Room, which no longer had any furniture after the looting, the monks were forced to sleep on the stone floor, under the low-vaulted ceiling. In that same room, many of the men, as postulants, had received the holy habit. As novices, many had made their temporary professions.
After their confinement, the monks were forced on a Death March through the mountains of northern China, during which many died from torture inflicted by their Socialist tormentors.
As those still held captive struggled and died, a few were maliciously rumored to be released but were actually transferred elsewhere and died alone, without their confreres.
One was Father Simon Hsu (b. 1897) who died of hunger and cold on December 19, 1947, near Yu Hsien, after enduring forced labor.
A native of Yu Chou Hsien, Chahar province, Father Simon had been an excellent bookbinder, blessed with an artistic ability that resulted in much success in the binding of books of the abbey, especially the large choral books.
VIVA CRISTO REY! 萬歲耶穌基督國王!